Herschel Kreloff, musician, conductor and educator, dies at 86

Herschel Kreloff, Ph.D., 86, was music director of the Civic Orchestra of Tucson for 38 years until his death on April 25, 2018. He brought years of experience as both educator and performer to his position as long-time conductor of the all-volunteer orchestra.

Violinist Lori Fitzsimmons recalls, “The first thing I did when I moved to Tucson 36 years ago was find a community orchestra. It was the Civic Orchestra of Tucson, under the baton of Herschel Kreloff, that anchored me to this community. I attribute this to Herschel’s keen wit and humor, his challenging selection of music and extraordinary soloists, unwavering support of musical opportunities for young people, and passion for sharing his love of music with the orchestra and audience.”

Born in Chicago, Kreloff played tuba, then trumpet, in high school. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Arizona State University, and his doctorate from the University of Arizona. He taught band and orchestra at every grade level in public schools in Phoenix and Tucson.

As a performer he played trumpet in the Phoenix and Tucson Symphony Orchestras, the Arizona Opera, as well as numerous pit orchestras, dance bands, and stage bands, where he backed such artists as Robert Goulet, Shirley Jones, and Sammy Davis Jr.

Kreloff was assistant conductor of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra under Gregory Millar and conducted a chamber orchestra in Phoenix. He studied composition with Robert McBride at the University of Arizona, where he conducted his composition, “Evocation.” Kreloff also served as music director of the Tucson Concert Band from 1997–2012.

Throughout his career Kreloff received many honors, including The Four Way Test Award in 2011 in recognition of “Service Above Self,” presented by the Rotary Club of Tucson. In 2015, he was inducted into the Tucson Musicians Museum.

Orchestra members have planned a celebration of life gathering on Saturday, June 16, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.  Attendees will have an opportunity to share memories and view a slideshow about Kreloff’s life, browse through orchestra memorabilia, and enjoy refreshments and music by orchestra members and talented young musicians. RSVPs are requested at or 730-3371.